Friday, August 29, 2008

I Must Be Getting Clucky

I was sitting at the tram stop on Elizabeth street just now, waiting for the 57 to take me to Spinifex, and an unbelievably adorable Asian-halfie aged about 4 was sitting next me with her Mum on the other side, sucking on a very sticky looking pink lollypop and staring at my tattoo. She reached out to touch it and her Mum (an example of the kind of parenting I wish I saw more of in public) gently asked her not too because her hands were sticky and I (the lady - hee!) probably wouldn't want to get sticky.

I shrugged and said that I didn't mind, and the child and I exchanged a solemn look that meant we understood each other and everything was chill, and then she informed me with a smile that I had a very pretty flower in my hair (earlier this morning I had jubilantly declared it Spring by plucking some of the neighbours' lavender and ceremoniously shaving my legs). She had little fake flowers on her hair clips too so I told her that we both had pretty flowers on today, and she grinned at me and we were firm friends.

This child and her mother ended up sitting opposite me on the tram, and the child was singing some unintelligible song that had repeated 'dinging' of a bell throughout. She informed her mother, and the riders of the tram at large, that she was going to sing some other songs about bells, and then proceeded to sing a mangled interpretation of Jingle Bells about 6 times in a row. I did not find this annoying, and on the contrary found the whole thing pleasantly amusing. Hormones can do weird shit to a girl.

Monday, August 25, 2008

An Extra Wife For Longer Life! Sing It With Me Now...

The Age Online, that most wonderful site of endless procrastination, today published an article entitled "Polygamists* Live Longer".

My thoughts:
Really? Wow. How utterly surprising and simply darned wonderful for them. I bet aristocrats and people with slaves and those enlightened adult men who still live with their mothers and subsequently never have to cook or clean or care for themselves (let alone another) probably do too! I wonder if anyone's done some similar research within cultures that don't acknowledge marital rape? Or fathers that don't acknowledge their children. That would be illuminating! Gosh, it just makes you think how much most of us are neglecting men. Frankly, we could all be doing more for men's well-being. Like stripping on command, and performing handjobs on public transport (the confinement is perfect for it). Honestly, there are just so many ways in which women could demean themselves for men, why stop at polygamy for a few extra years when we really ought to be shooting for male immortality?

Okay, so channelling Catherine Deveny a little bit and apologies for ranting, but for fucks...

Horrifyingly, there was no mention of women's life expectancy/quality of life/existence in this insightful piece of reportage.

* As far as this article is concerned, Polygamists = Men

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Melbourne: City of Literature

I was planning to write about this several days ago, but this is the first alone time I've had with my computer since being away on my inaugural corporate junket (which was totes awesome btw). Melbourne has been awarded 'cultural city' status by UNESCO, named as the world's second City of Literature (Edinburgh being the first).

So, you know, this is good for our collective ego and all, but I failed to get particularly excited about the announcement. The best thing about it is that it triggered the Government into putting some money where its mouth was, by developing the centre for books and ideas at the State Library. The State Library has already been drastically improved and is now beautiful, peaceful and extremely useful, and this should be a great new initiative within it. It will certainly be hella helpful to the small and underfunded organisations that slave away facilitating the culture that has induced this recognition.

I just hope it doesn't cause the literati to be self-congratulatory. The publishing industry in Melbourne is largish to be sure, but the foundation for it is laid by the countless underfunded and poorly paid individuals who write because they love it, not to mention all those good people who will happily drop a wad in their local bookstore (which hopefully isn't Borders). And when you do something because you love it, you do it regardless of a UNESCO title. It saddens me to imagine that this City of Literature business will be seen as a victory for Penguin and Readings and MWF and lord knows Sleepers (who are just so hip they even have tattoos!) whilst overlooking the really important initiatives of Express Media, and all the zines in Sticky, and the websites and blogs and streetpress where so many local writers are broken in, and the wave upon wave of ever-shifting underground movements that are the true source of Melbourne's creativity.

I was mildly bemused by the request that was made of Is Not a while back that we provide some hi res images of our magazine and a bit of copy from our website to be incorporated into the campaign. Of course we consented and gave the committee making the bid the materials they requested from us, but I couldn't help feel a bit like we were the Little Red Hen who had laboured hard for our freshly baked loaf and suddenly people were happy to help us eat it. Of course, our magazine hasn't survived into the heady days of City of Literature status (although I'm sure this info didn't make it into the official bid). Nor were we informed of or consulted on any other aspect of the bid, nor notified of its success: I read it in The Age. Which doesn't particularly bother me, and while it's nice to have one's publication acknowledged, it sure as hell doesn't feel inclusive.

It's just that literary recognition is so top-down. I'm sure there's much good reason behind this, and not least because a lot of the manuscripts and other writing people produce are somewhere between mediocre and plain awful. But I would like to see the effort rewarded. I also have a massive gripe with massively-successful first-time author Carrie Tiffany's comment in the same Age article that writing is " of the rare things left in the world that isn't about money". Well not if you want to get published, Carrie. Publishing endeavours that aren't about money go broke. I'm aware that there are grants to allow artistic freedom from corporate bottom lines. But show me one grant that doesn't stipulate that your content be about Melbourne, or having a mixed-ethnic background, or the outback, and so on and so on. It's a politically correct artistic freedom that they provide. So that's sweet if you were planning to do that anyway, but if you were planning to write about your love for David Bowie or your collection of shopping lists, or something far more subversive, you better hope it's damned marketable, or have an in with an editor who isn't afraid to take risks.

My spirits were bouyed on Saturday reading the interview with Sophie Cunningham in the A2. The changes Sophie is bringing to Meanjin are truly exciting to me, and represent a new publishing outlet for the kind of work I find intellectually and culturally relevant and entertaining, and far too little of which is locally produced. It was also lovely to see the September issue cover displayed in the article, the artwork for which I'd seen only two days before in the Stuart and Jeremy's office on their new ridiculously fandangled soy-based printer thingy. I am greatly looking forward to getting my mitts on the first edition.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Duh, I Can Advertise Reel Guhd

Today on the tram I was seated next to an unremarkable looking guy around my own age who was scribbling onto a notepad. Bored, I spied on his scribblings. He had written:


Then he'd painstakingly drawn an artsy box, inside which he'd written:


I surmised he was in advertising. I further surmised that he was on-track to make a shithouse ad.

For the next 10 minutes or so the scribbler failed to add anything further to these two basic elements, but traced thoughtfully around the edges of the box, emboldening its lines (but not its sentiment). Then he caught me looking at him and most likely smirking, and he wisely angled his notepad out of my line of sight.

I can't wait to see the ad for Pineapple Chupa Chups when it hits the streets. I can't help but wonder, with my political incorrectness in full force, whether it will be flamboyantly marketed at homosexuals? Or whether it will simply try to distinguish itself from the other Chupa Chups by virtue of being, um, fruity. I also can't help but wonder what this guy gets paid...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hear Me Roar

I have been regularly observing behaviours, comments and events around me and found them to transgress my ideas of good feminism. Most frequently I'm seeing lots of examples of women being valued, and valuing themselves, for their appearance above all other characteristics. Women who will prioritise beauty regimes above some other kind of productivity (like being at work), men who will forgive some shabby characteristics with the throwaway - but completely sincere - justification, "yeah, *shrug* but she's really hot though". I often find it difficult to butt in during these moments with a feminist critique, not least because my own feminism is often hard to pin down, it's quite fluid and complex, and seems to undergo constant evolution.

When I was a teenager and in the early years of uni I confidently took up a pretty second-wave feminist stance and would shout it loud and proud where I could. I would be quick to jump to a pretty extreme position, which was often unhelpful and untrue of my own experience. But as I delved into post-modernism and post-feminism I couldn't help but reflect that I had personally rarely suffered from overt gendered discrimination, I had lots of opportunities and I wasn't afraid to take them, and my feminism shifted to a more slippery individualistic model. Also, I know only too well the usefulness of flirting (flirting? Let's call it being charming!) a little to help get my way. But, I never fully subscribed to this theory as some of my friends did, because there are so many people who do not enjoy the priveleged, educated, position that this kind of theory assumes. And even amongst those who do I see post-feminism being used to justify an awful lot of self-interested bollocks that has nothing to do with promoting the perceptions of and rights of our gender.

Also, there's always been a lot of other confounding factors. Unlike those of my friends with more punk sensibilities, I don't want to got through life pitting myself against something or someone. And I've always taken a 'you win more flies with honey' approach to feminist opposition - so that at least people will be inclined to listen. Also another big problem has been that, like so many of us, I really want boys to like me. I want to be found attractive. It's a difficult psychological hurdle to overcome, to contradict and potentially offend/anger the very people you're hoping to appeal to. And as I observe almost daily, boys will regularly opt for less-argumentative female companions than I (although I would like to point out that I'm not I'm blaming this for why I'm single - just that it probably rules out a big chunk of the field).

But recently I've felt that I and my peers are all too lax when it comes to this stuff. The types of sexism or problematic gender roles I'm encountering are so much more insidious, and sometimes not, and not uncommonly I'm feeling pissed off at something or someone but not knowing how to point it out without creating great discord. The other problem is that nominating yourself as judge and jury presiding over the behaviour of those around you is a massive problem, and I and everyone around me is smart enough to know so. But where does that leave us?

My friends and family are as intelligent, critical, educated and decent as any people I've ever encountered - so if we can't tackle these issues then I am inclined to despair. My new policy is that a bit of discord is a price I'm willing to pay. One of the biggest obstacles my generation of women is faced with is the sense that it's all much better now than it was, even if it's not perfect, it's not so bad that it's worth upsetting a lot of people for. Bah!

I began my new campaign at a family wedding on Friday night where I had a long and engaging conversation with my uncle, who is some kind of Freemason Grand Poobah, about why they don't allow women. I pointed out that no matter how noble are the works of such an organistion, I am instinctively inclined to mistrust and resent an organisation that excludes me just because I have breasts (exquisite breasts!*). He ended up agreeing with me.

*I did not say 'exquisite breasts' to my uncle. That would just be weird.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Gut Feeling

I have recently commenced my most corporate job to date, working at a small social research company. Having done various degrees of freelancing as writer or publicist for various 'trendy' organisations, as well as being something of a flibbidygibbet student and waitress for much of my 20s, I thought long and hard about the implications of an 'office job': punctuality; curtailing my gutter mouth; not being (too) hungover; probably not being able to wear outfits held together by safety pins; covering my tattoo. But then, I also reflected on the upsides: weekends; holidays; potential for professional and educational growth; being above the poverty line...

When my musician/it programmer/bum brother accused me half-jokingly of selling-out, I countered that I was in fact selling-in. Rather than spending my days utilising my intellect to convince people to go to bourgie cinemas and buy the olive oil popcorn, or arguing long and hard for the social merits of music festivals (of which there are many, as long as they're kept in perspective), I'm applying myself to investigating the justice system, or the public health system and such and such. So far I'm feeling quite good about it all. My workmates aren't hipsters but they are left-leaning critical thinking well-adjusted friendly people. Also, this office has an espresso machine. And I recently learnt that our annual 'team-building' exercise next Saturday - the prospect of which put me in mind of high ropes courses and paintball - is to be a 4 hour, 8 course degustation lunch in Daylesford. Saweeet!

In short, it's all good.

But on Wednesday I had my first experience of some of the constraint of a 'civilised' work environment, and this is why:

I had awoken in the morning and emitted a large burp, which I hadn't thought much about at the time. When I got to work the office was busy. There were two major client reports due that day and everyone was working frantically. In my fifth part-time week, I was handed a partially constructed report (I had not seen nor worked on a report for them at this stage) on a project I'd partly observed and asked if I could complete it by midday.

Around mid-morning two things became very obvious:
1) there was no way this report was going to be done by midday, and
2) there were dastardly things going on in my digestive tract.

We called the client and they agreed to a 5pm deadline, and I continued to work madly as the bloating further expanded (my stomach was both the circumference and solidness of a fully inflated basket ball), the gurgling intensified and the devastating cramps set it.

I went to the bathroom at about 11am and broke wind fairly emphatically, hoping that noone would come in and that the toilets were good and sound-proof, but suspecting that they weren't (like I said, it's a small office). Not much else was happening for me, and I felt like any absence from my desk on this day was conspicuous, so I went back to work.

And it all just got worse. If I'd been able to fart with violent abandon for about an hour I reckon I would've been fine, but alas this was not an option. And while I'm not afraid to be good and frank about the viscera of my corporal being, I don't really know my new workmates all that well and didn't feel like I could share my terrible intestinal pain. I was also acutely aware that this was the first time in this job that a significant task had been handed to me and that I was being relied upon to come through, and felt sure that if I mentioned to anyone that I was unwell they would all kindly insist that I go home (which i badly wanted to do), and that in doing so I would be letting everyone down.

In the end I just sat squirming on my seat, telling myself that I could go to the toilet at hour long intervals (figuring that shouldn't be too obvious, and if anyone asked I would tell them that I'd drunk lots of tea). The hours felt very long.

At about 1pm I had one of those panic-inducing cramps where you realise you have about 60 seconds to get your naked arse to a toilet seat or an all-brown, pungent hell will break loose, only to see David (the only male in the office apart from Stephen the boss-man) walk into the toilet ahead of me. So I turned my purposeful walk to the bathroom into a meander into the kitchen where I stood pretending to read the day's paper whilst clenching with fervour, then after about 5 mins I went to the toilet which was thankfully empty, and performed acts which are best left to the imagination. Let's just say that I cleaned that toilet with a scrubbing brush afterwards.

The rest of the day was pretty much torture - more psychological than physical - as I desperately tried to keep my cruel illness under wraps. And this was what struck me. Despite experiencing some legitimate physical anguish, I was horribly aware of my incongruous behaviour. I kept expecting that someone would walk into the bathroom, and then walk out again and glance at me suspiciously. In order to pretend that I wasn't constantly going to the toilet (which I would do the second my computer clock would tick over another 60 mins) I would try to befuddle my workmates by walking to the printer and looking at something on that for a second, or walking to the kitchen and turning on the tap for a few seconds, before dodging off surreptitiously to the bathroom once more. At one stage I fantasised that I could perhaps walk down the road to the Edinburgh gardens and use a public toilet there where I could relax fully, but I felt unable to leave the office when we were all on deadline. Also, there was an awful moment when Cathy was explaining hastily and in some detail the further changes I would need to make to the report (this was at about 4:15pm) and I had such an enormous dizzy spell I nearly fell off my chair.

Fortunately, this dizzy spell seemed to herald a downturn in my symptoms and my stomach began to relaxed. We finished the report at 5:35pm. The client was happy.

I am still grateful to have this job. But I would have paid good hard cash on Wednesday for workplace in which I could confidently declare "Evil things are living in my stomach and they have to come out. Probably don't go into the toilet on the right".

Monday, August 11, 2008

It begins...

This is my first foray into blogging, and to be honest I'm very conflicted about it. Primarily I am scared that my writing will turn out to be boring/lame/incorrectly spelled and will become a source of silent scorn for my friends and acquaintances. It's this very fear that has kept me from blogging until now. I am completely aware of how cowardly this is.

I am also a bit bemused: I don't have any specific game plan for this blog; nothing I am particularly driven to say. I have been reflecting recently on the cultural output of the many people around me. And what with the recent ending of the magazine I feel compelled to contribute something new, somehow. So I am curious to see what I come out with.

Also, I could use a new project.

As this has turned into something of a confessional I shall throw down a gauntlet to myself, and propose that I shall (try to) blog here several times a week. We shall see...